The use of complementary and alternative medicine by 7427 Australian women with cyclic perimenstrual pain and discomfort: A cross-sectional study

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016, 16 (1), pp. 1 - 11
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© 2016 Fisher et al. Background: To assess the prevalence of cyclic perimenstrual pain and discomfort and to detail the pattern of complementary and alternative (CAM) use adopted by women for the treatment of these symptoms. Methods: Data from the 2012 national Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health (ALSWH) cross-sectional survey of 7427 women aged 34-39 years were analysed to estimate the prevalence of endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular or heavy periods and severe dysmenorrhoea and to examine the association between their symptoms and their visits to CAM practitioners as well as their use of CAM therapies and products in the previous 12 months. Results: The prevalence of endometriosis was 3.7 % and of the perimenstrual symptoms assessed, PMS was most prevalent at 41.2 % whilst irregular bleeding (22.2 %), heavy periods (29.8 %) and severe period pain (24.1 %) were reported at lower levels. Women with endometriosis were more likely than non-sufferers to have consulted with a massage therapist or acupuncturist and to have used vitamins/minerals, yoga/meditation or Chinese medicines (p < 0.05). PMS sufferers were more likely to consult with an osteopath, massage therapist, naturopath/herbalist or alternative health practitioner and to have used all forms of CAM therapies except Chinese medicines than women who had infrequent PMS (all p < 0.05). Women with irregular periods did not have different patterns of CAM use from non-sufferers and those with heavy periods did not favour any form of CAM but were less likely to visit a massage therapist or use yoga/meditation than non-sufferers (p < 0.05). For women with severe dysmenorrhoea there was no difference in their visits to CAM practitioners compared to non-sufferers but they were more likely to use aromatherapy oils (p < 0.05) and for more frequent dysmenorrhoea also herbal medicines, Chinese medicines and other alternative therapies compared to non-sufferers (all p < 0.05). Conclusions: There is a high prevalence of cyclic perimenstrual pain and discomfort amongst women in this age group. Women were using CAM differentially when they had specific symptoms of cyclic perimenstrual pain and discomfort. The use of CAM needs to be properly assessed to ensure their safe, effective use and to ascertain their significance as a treatment option enabling women with menstrual problems and their care providers to improve their quality of life.
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